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The Decline of the Independent Inventor: A Schumpterian Story?

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  • Naomi R. Lamoreaux
  • Kenneth L. Sokoloff

Abstract

Joseph Schumpeter argued in Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy that the rise of large firms%u2019 investments in in-house R&D spelled the doom of the entrepreneurial innovator. We explore this idea by analyzing the career patterns of successive cohorts of highly productive inventors from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We find that over time highly productive inventors were increasingly likely to form long-term attachments with firms. In the Northeast, these attachments seem to have taken the form of employment positions within large firms, but in the Midwest inventors were more likely to become principals in firms bearing their names. Entrepreneurship, therefore, was by no means dead, but the increasing capital requirements%u2014both financial and human%u2014for effective invention and the need for inventors to establish a reputation before they could attract support made it more difficult for creative people to pursue careers as inventors. The relative numbers of highly productive inventors in the population correspondingly decreased, as did rates of patenting per capita.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11654.

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Date of creation: Oct 2005
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11654

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Cited by:
  1. Ani Guerdjikova & Levon Barseghyan, 2007. "Private Incentives versus Class Interests: Implications for Growth," 2007 Meeting Papers 795, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  2. Ani Guerdjikova & Levon Barseghyan, 2008. "Private Incentives versus Class Interests: A Theory of Optimal Institutions with An Application to Growth," 2008 Meeting Papers 939, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  3. Toivanen, Otto & Väänänen, Lotta, 2010. "Returns to Inventors," CEPR Discussion Papers 7744, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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